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Howard Students and Faculty React to the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

Former Queen Elizabeth II wearing the crown, pink gown and blue sash representing the Order of the Garter in portrait. Photo via: Library and Archives Canada/Flickr.

Great Britain mourned the death of former Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s longest-serving monarch, for 10 days. Though some were in mourning, others were in conversation about her legacy of colonialism and imperialism.

At 96 years old, Elizabeth II, who served as Britain’s monarch for 70 years, died on Sept. 8, and her funeral was televised on Sept. 18. It was recently revealed that she died of old age. 

At the time of Elizabeth’s accession in 1952, more than a quarter of the world’s population–including parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands–was under British imperial power. This fact sparked online conversations and resistance to sadness about the former monarch’s death.

“Britain and the British monarchy represented by Queen Elizabeth II played a central role in the Atlantic slave trade between the late sixteenth century and the early nineteenth century. Britain and the monarchy also made immense profits from the institution of slavery in their colonies in the Americas, including the British West Indies,” Dr. Ana Araujo, a history professor and the author of “Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History,” said. “When Britain finally abolished slavery in 1833, it put in place a system of apprenticeship that allowed British slave owners and consequently, the monarchy to continue profiting from the work of newly freed enslaved people, now ‘apprentices,’” she continued.

Though in her seven-decade reign, the British Empire became the Commonwealth of Nations and more than 20 countries gained independence, some, such as senior international relations major Shaniyah Frazier, can not forget colonialism and how it has affected countries such as Kenya, India and Egypt today.

Queen Elizabeth II never publicly acknowledged or apologized for her ancestors’ role in the oppression and enslavement of colonized people in the past. She was also voiceless during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. The uprising was in response to colonists taking away the native peoples’ land, poverty and a lack of governmental representation for Africans. 

“The Queen was the head of the state in England. She had every responsibility, which most acquit her of, for the approximately 11,000 enslaved peoples, British soldiers killed from the Mau Mau uprising against their enslavement,” Frazier said. 

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The newly-established King Charles III and his son, Prince William, have acknowledged the wrongdoing of their predecessors, but have not offered a plan for reparations, which to Sadiya Quetti-Goodson, a sophomore African American studies major, is pertinent. 

“I feel Great Britain’s colonialism has profited greatly off [of] oppressing other countries in the 19th and 20th centuries, and this colonization needs to be addressed with reparations …. It is unjust and unfair not to give people what they deserve especially after it was taken from them,” Quetti-Goodson explained. 

Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman

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